WASHINGTON, D.C. – In November, the Group of Twenty (G20) – an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union – met in in Bali, Indonesia, and one development out of the summit was the upcoming adoption of a controversial color-coded health monitoring smartphone app meant to protect people from COVID-19.
The app would be similar in nature to one already employed by China, which critics have argued has been used by the totalitarian regime in that country to control the movement of their population. The app in question displays color codes to denote their vaccination status and determine if its user has tested positive for COVID-19 or not.
Recently, reports have surfaced that the Chinese Communist Party has been changing the app’s color codes seemingly at random – often without legitimate proof of any infection – in order to limit the freedoms of their population as per the country’s ruthlessly authoritarian “Zero COVID” strategy.
One shocking video that has surfaced on Twitter showed that Chinese authorities had remotely switched the app’s health status for a large number of individuals traveling from the city of Guangzhou from green – indicating that the user is COVID-free – to yellow or red – indicating exposure or full-on infection – falsely forcing them to quarantine and preventing them from traveling home.
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In addition, there have been other reports of similar occurrences happening to other Chinese residents, illustrating that what happened in Guangzhou was far from an isolated incident.
Since China adopted the use of the app, speculation as to its potential abuse has run rampant, and the topic of potentially adopting such tech by the rest of the world in order to serve as a COVID passport of sorts – where a “green” reading on the app would allow individuals to travel freely, whereas yellow or red would not – has some growing concerned.
During November’s Business 20 (B20) summit – an event which is part of the G20 Summit – the Health Minister of Indonesia, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, advocated for a worldwide expansion of China’s program in order to monitor the vaccination and infection status of individuals wishing to travel.
“Let’s have a digital health certificate acknowledged by [the World Health Organization]. If you have been vaccinated or tested properly, then you can move around,” he said. “So, for the next pandemic, instead of stopping the movement of the people 100 percent, which blocked the economy globally, you can still provide some movement of the people.”
Sadikin noted that the constituent countries of the G20 – which includes the United States – have already agreed to such a program, although it is not clear when or how it will be implemented.
“Indonesia has achieved, G20 country has agreed, to have this digital certificate using WHO standard, and we will sub it into the next World Health Assembly in Geneva as the revision to international health regulation,” he said. “So, hopefully for the next pandemic, we can still see some movement of the people, some movement of the goods, and movement of the economy.”